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A fresh perspective

What to consider when undergoing a remodel

by Mary T. Liebhold, CKD


The current state of the real estate market has many homeowners deciding to remodel rather than relocate or build new. The most remodeled room in the home is the kitchen, while other popular interior projects include the master bathroom and the addition of a family room, sunroom, or bedroom.


Any interior project will impact life in unexpected ways. Anticipating, planning, and communication are key to making a remodeling project fun and exciting from start to finish. Once the decision to undertake a remodel is made, there are  several steps that can make the experience more fun and less stressful.


Top considerations

When selecting a contractor, be sure to check references with jobs of a similar type. Many excellent contractors have moved into remodels from new construction and are not as attuned to the needs of working with and around a family living in the project.


Once plans are made and quotes are under way, make sure project costs are complete not only with construction details but also with survival details. The project’s timeline can be laid out in day-by-day detail or in broad generalities, depending upon the contractor. Knowing who and what is on tap for the day can bring peace of mind, while days of inactivity can mean a lower final cost. It might be a higher initial bid for a general contractor with a more itemized timetable, but the long-term impact can balance out.


With multi-room remodeling, consider a short-term rental rather than staying put. If the kitchen — the heart of the house — major bathrooms or main traffic patterns are disrupted for long periods of time, even the most exciting project can feel endless.


If you choose to stay at home, think beyond the final plans and goals, and start with the people. Once you have a contractor in place, ask for a list of employees and subcontractors. Ask who will be the day-to-day contact and how often you should expect to see him or her. While many contractors are hands-on, others have little interaction with clients.


It’s also important to consider parking and neighborhood impacts. Let neighbors know about the influx of activity, plan areas for overflow parking and consider placing signs to keep adjacent yards from parking damage. Other exterior considerations include staging areas for materials and potential areas for worker breaks, such as designated areas for eating and trash collection. Establish a schedule with work times to begin and end during the week and whether weekend work is permitted. Ask how often the site will be cleaned and trash hauled. While these might seem minor at the outset, a clean job site from the outside will have a positive affect overall.


Plan ahead

Before remodeling work begins, remove all art from walls adjacent to the project. Also remove small objects, books and as much furniture as possible from adjacent rooms, and send rugs and drapes out to be cleaned.


For larger projects, the initial expense of having a moving company pack and store the contents of affected rooms can save in the long run by reducing cleaning costs and potential damage during a project. Ask that partitions, or dust walls, be installed and kept intact to minimize construction dust.


Temporary kitchens of folding tables, relocated refrigerators, microwaves, and portable hot plates should be set up in or near a laundry room with an extra sink. Some removed cabinetry or shelving to hold dishes and food can keep some routine and order. Floor protection of 1/4-inch plywood, carpet scrap, or vinyl scraps will last much longer than paper in high-traffic areas or in places where the existing floor must be maintained.


As work progresses on the project, communicate concerns with the contractor before it becomes an issue. The key requirement of any homeowner is to have fun with the project while keeping the end result — a fabulous remodel — in mind. 


Mary T. Liebhold, CKD, is owner of The Kitchen Specialist Inc. in Durham. To learn more, call (919) 490-4922 or visit